The Continuity Through History: Homo Sapiens Relationship With Animals As Food

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The inhabitance of our planet has been recorded specifically through two primary worlds, the Pleistocene and the Holocene. The Pleistocene dated from 2. 6 million years ago (MYA) through 11. 7 thousand years ago (KYA), while the Holocene dates from the end of the late Pleistocene (11. 7 KYA) through and up until the present. The Pleistocene world was where the evolution of homo sapiens occurred and through the Holocene is when humans began to spread and develop across our planet.

The continuous transition from the Pleistocene to the Holocene world is prominent when examining the relationship homo sapiens have with animals as a source of food and other factors that affected the influenced the animals/food. During the late Pleistocene, homo sapiens used both flora and fauna as their source of food, viewing animals as purely meat and plants as a source to gather and eat. Although animals also held religious value, human populations realized their survival would come from a combination of hunting, fishing, and collecting plant foods in the wild. Researchers have made the prediction that plant foods that were collect by the women gave people the main amount of their calories, whereas, hunting by the men is what provided them with key nutrients a had special social significance. Although, gathering of foods in the early hominin diet was important and essential, hunting was seen as the key innovation of the evolving human lineage.

Hunting as a key innovation was able to be proven due to the 1970s and 1980s debates over the importance of hunting and gathering. Organic materials are sometimes difficult to be found or to not decompose in some climates, but remnants of animal bones or mingled bones found with stone tools used by our early hominins are preserved for millions of years through mineralization. Without mineralization, we would not have been able to determine how meat might have been obtained, processed or even shared in our early Pleistocene ancestry. These findings proved the butchery of animal carcasses and also signs of battering were found, indication that homo sapiens broke open bones to get the fat-rich marrow.

Frequently, it seems as though early hominins would work with other large predators to get their meats by picking up the remains of the left carcass. These finding tell researchers not that our hominin ancestors used a magnitude of different strategies to hunt and gather meats for survival. Mineralization was not the only benefits we received from minerals during this time period, minerals such as Calcium provided great dietary benefits. Our early hominin ancestors relied heavily on a diet with ratios of strontium (Sr) to calcium (Ca). A diet that is rich in plants will build bones that have a high Sr/Ca ratio in comparison to those rich in animal foods. Our ancestors also received 25-35 percent of their calories from C4 plants, which were drought-tolerant unlike C3 plants which were harder to locate due forest fragmentation and expansion of wetlands. These plants and minerals contributed to the teeth of early hominins in the Pleistocene world and helped to adapt their teeth enamel to the specific foods in which they were eating. In the late Pleistocene, extinction of megafauna occurred because humans hunted dozens of species for resources of food, clothing, etc. , which indirectly led to the extinction of other smaller species as well. The stability of animal and plant behavior became difficult for this hunter/gatherer world as the environment was unstable and drastically changed. The unpredictable climate and seasonal changes became difficult for survival and finding the appropriate resources for food; animals would migrate and plants would not be able to survive the ice age that occurred in the Pleistocene, leaving minimal options for food for the hominins.

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The drastic climatic changes that occurred in the late Pleistocene, such as, glaciers forming and massive snowfalls, interrupted by periods of warmer temperature, and then “accentuated” by severe cold episodes. Oceans would cool and freeze while continental land masses would be covered in ice sheets. 5 Hominins during the late Pleistocene had to resort to innovation during these dramatically changing conditions. The innovation of hunting technology always had to be adapted to the environmental conditions in which humans were living in and trying to survive. Hunting became a major source of calories when glaciers would increase, leading to colder winter temperatures and humans needed to store fat for warmth. The snow cover land made it so that the only source of game for hunting was large animals. Humans tried to supplement meat and fat with plant foods, but it was hard when the flora had such a short life-span in these cold temperatures. 6 They could only be short lived when the bursts of warmer temperatures would arise. Food shortages would occur seasonally, hominins had to be able to adapt and have variability when it came to food because their bodies would need different foods based on the different seasons.

As plants and animals shifted around the world people had to find the necessary resources to live and how to choose where to live. What grandparents may have passed along to their grandchildren may not be able to be applied because the Pleistocene world was so unpredictable and rapidly changing. As our world progressed into the Holocene world, our climate regulated and had more consistency, we understand how to utilize flora and fauna as well as minerals, and how to choose our habitats. There was no knowledge or practice of crop cultivation or animal husbandry until the Holocene world. Animals were in the wild for people to access as a source of food and the domestication of plants and animals was alien to them during this time period.

The continuity from the late Pleistocene to the Holocene world is evident in the passing along of the traditional ways we obtain our food. We still use flora and fauna as our primary dietary components and hunt and gather our food; however, we do this in a different way. In this more advanced world we have simply learned how to domesticate plants and animals and provide them with a more controlled environment. With new technologies in a more advanced age than our Pleistocene ancestors, in the Holocene world the greatest technology and innovation was that of agriculture which provided homo sapiens with a new vision and way for farming and rearing animals. In the Holocene world, animals were brought from the wild to be tamed and “absorbed into the culture of the human owners”, this process was known as domestication which ultimately changed the culture.

These animals learn a brand-new way of life, one that they are not familiar with from their previous wild environments, they must now learn the new social relationships and the feeding and reproductive strategies. 9 It was not simply the domestication of animals that marked this new advancement on Earth, but also the domestication of plants. People could plant their own flora and learned new technologies to help them grow, agriculture. In the Holocene world, agriculture in a farming aspect incorporated the cultivation of soil so that they could grow crops and also rear animals to use them as food, wool, and other products for survival.

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